9 Ways to Increase Student Engagement

My teaching style has completely evolved over the ten years I've been in the classroom.  Since starting teaching at the young age of 21, I've learned so much.  I've taught a few different grade levels.  I've observed in lots of classes.  I've met tons of fabulous teachers.  I've worked on several different teams.  I've sat through some WONDERFUL and notsowonderful PD.  I've had my own kids (which probably influenced my teaching style the most!).  If I could go back to those first couple of years and apologize to each and every student I would totally do so!!  The amazing thing about teaching is we get a start fresh every single year.  We get the chance to change things up, incorporate new practices, and completely start over.  In this post I am highlighting 9 ways to engage, involve, and excite your students.  I've gathered up 9 things that are important to me after a decade of teaching.  I think they are best practices, but honestly they are mostly my opinion.  I did include some research to show I didn't just grab them out of thin air, ha!
So, here are my top NINE ways you increase student engagement this year:
First up, MOVEMENT.  At home, no matter the weather, I do not let me kids sit down all day and do nothing.  Normally I am locking them outside so that they are forced to get up and move ;)!  Why do we expect our students to sit in the same place all day and not move?  Our students are little people.  They need to get up, move around, and reposition themselves.  Here are three easy ways you can incorporate movement in the classroom:
1.  Scoots or I Spy activities- place the station cards around the room and have students walk around to solve problems.
2.  Working on the floor
3.  Allowing students to work on the white board, on clipboards, or in the hallway (even better... outside)
I love to play games in class.  Is it quiet?  NOPE!  It gets loud and noisy, but as long as students are involved in the game and not side conversations... it's okay!  Have you ever been to a Bunco Night or Game Night with friends?  Even adults don't play games in silence!  Why do friends and family members gather around and play games together?  Because it's fun!!!  Let's have fun with our students :))
When looking for pictures of water in the classroom I actually came across a ton of pictures of my own children with water in their hands.  Almost every single time we leave the house I say, "Grab your water!"  Why?  Kids get thirsty, ha!  Did you know that there is actually a lot of research out there about how drinking water throughout the day increases performance?  Let students keep a water bottle with a spill-proof lid on their desk and you may see increased focus and performance!  If you want to go a step further... Allow time for snacks during class.  These can be healthy snacks they bring from home.  The last thing we can expect is for our students to perform well if they have hungry tummies.  I mean, I can't go all day without snacking so why should I expect children to be different??
Y'all.  It's time to throw the worksheets out the window.  Empty out those filing cabinets you have had for 10 plus years.  Fill up those recycling bins.  Set fire to the worksheets!  I might be a little dramatic ;)! I do believe there is a time and a place for worksheets.  I am guilty of using them in the past.  As a mom, I loathe seeing worksheet after worksheet after worksheet come home in my child's folder.  Why?  Because I know those worksheets meant nothing to her.  I know she wasn't challenged.  I know she wasn't engaged.  And guess where those worksheets end up?  THE TRASH!  Why don't parents keep the memories of their child's worksheets throughout the year?  Because they don't show anything about their child other than they can answer a question.  Over the past few years we have changed the word "worksheet" to "printable" to make ourselves feel better.  Let's just call it like it is... a worksheet is a worksheet is a worksheet.  Do students need to be writing and have an organized space to show their work?  Absolutely!  Is it okay to use pencil and paper in the classroom?  You bet!  It's more about if that printable or recording sheet is meaningful.  What are the children getting out of it?  Am I using it as a way for students to show their work/record their answers, as an assessment, or just for busy work?  Asking ourselves these questions could help us totally transform our classrooms just by cutting out some of the time we spend at the copy machine :)
 I get that some of you can't incorporate food into your classrooms.  I know there are certain laws and rules we are supposed to follow.  Even if you don't allow your students to eat the food during class, they still have fun using it for their activity.  Maybe you can send it home afterwards.  Or maybe you could just close that door, teach that awesome lesson, and let your students indulge in a snack every once in a while, ha!  Let's ask for forgiveness rather than permission every once in a while ;)
Manipulatives can be loud.  Most are made of plastic (Bless the companies that started using foam).  Providing our students with manipulatives helps them to touch what they are learning.  It allows them to manipulate the problems and numbers.  It allows them to construct and compose.  It gives them a concrete experience that will help build those foundational skills.
I'm no extraordinary singer.  I'll do a chant over a song any day!  Thank goodness for YouTube.  I promise you can find a song for almost any subject or skill if you search hard enough!  Put motions to that song or chant and it's even better!!!
There is just nothing better than a good read aloud.  I love showing books that I find online (mostly because it gives me a five minute break to do something else).  You just can't replace the teacher with a screen all the time.  The discussions and deep thinking that happens during those moments when the children are sitting by your feet are irreplaceable!
So many people ask me, "How do you get away with the crafts and drawing?   My principal doesn't allow fluff!"  As long as the craft, drawings, or art involves academic content... It's not fluff.  Plus, if the kids like it... and we are hitting standards... why not?  Why not give them ten minutes to create something?  I bet that if your administrator knew the WHY behind the activity then they would feel differently about it.  Plus, these are the kind of treasures that parents will save.  These are the things they will pull out on graduation day, the first day of college, or when their children get married to reminisce the good days!!! 

So there you have it!  Those are my top nine ways to increase student engagement.  There are SOOO many more that I could add to it, but I wanted to showcase my favorites.  Are these things you are already doing in your classroom?  I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Personal Narratives

Write On!  Unit Two is all about Personal Narratives.  Hope and I have planned out a month of activities that will excite and motivate your young authors!  Here's a little peek...
Also, don't forget it's aligned to the Common Core and TEKS!
 Plus we've done all the planning for you!
 And we also include journal prompts that can be displayed or glued into writing spirals :)
Find it on SALE until August 23rd at midnight!  Click HERE to see more about it :)


Needing something for Back to School?  TpT is hosting a ONE DAY sale!  You've got a few hours to get your shop on!

Bulletin Boards

This is the year of the bulletin board!  Our school's theme this year is Out'Rhea'geous (a word play on the name of the school).  I was inspired by many many bloggers when putting these boards together.  For backgrounds I used a mixture of wrapping paper and fadeless paper.  You will find a video tutorial for creating BB letters at the end of this post :)

This is the board that you see when you walk into the building.  Our school colors are green and white, so I tried to play into the school spirit!
Paper Fan inspiration:  Katie King, Cut-Out Letter Idea:  Doodle Bugs

I got my paper fans at hobby lobby, but there are some great options HERE and HERE.

This board is near the workroom on the main hall.  It will be used to display student pictures and articles throughout the school year.
Rectangle Letter idea:  Rachel Lamb, Monster Idea:  Amy Groesbeck
This board is near the cafeteria.  Our counselor likes to keep the board inspirational/character education focused.  You can find printables for this board from Math=Love:  HERE!
I bought lots of pennants, banners, and decor from Hobby Lobby,  The background is chevron fadeless paper from a teacher store.

This board is also near the cafeteria.  Our principals wanted it to highlight how parents can connect to the school throughout the year.  
This last board I did is for the staff in the office.  This idea came from Ms. Houser's blog.  Teachers will write little notes, tidbits of inspiration, and comments about happenings on the colored paper.  I did something similar last year with our sunshine board.  You can see that HERE!
Pretty much if you use black backgrounds, astrobrights paper, and cute fonts you are good to go!  For fun fonts check out Babbling Abby!
Here's a little video on how to make the letters that I used for my boards (I have the sniffles, so sorry!!!)  Thanks to all the amazing bloggers that share their ideas for all of us to gain inspiration from!!!  Couldn't have done this without that creative spark I got from Katie, Kacey, Rachel, and Amy!
For where to find the best fonts check out Cara's post HERE!
I'll be back later on to showcase a few more projects that I've completed for B2S!  Happy decorating and teaching!!!


*Update:  All winners have been notified!*

The Back to School Bash 2016 has been so much fun! Thank you to everyone who has joined us this year. BUT...it's not over yet! We have one final chance for you to win! When we say win, we mean WIN BIG! Anyone needing some updated technology for your classroom? I give you the B2S Bash Grand Prize...

Yes! This is real life!
Yes! This could be in your classroom very soon! 

But you have to enter first! Here's how you do it: 

1) Begin the insta hop by locating @stepintosecondgrade on instagram. You will want to begin with Amy so that you collect the letter tiles in order. Each blogger will link to another letter. Click on the letter and hop to the next location. As you hop...

a) follow each blogger 
b)  collect each letter

The letter tiles look like this....

2. The letters will reveal a question. (Don't worry...the letters go in order so you don't have to unscramble a thing!) 

3. Once you have figured out the question, hop on over to any of our blogs to enter the Rafflecopter to win! You will be asked to answer the instaHOP question! 

You only have 24 hours to enter, so go get your hop on! ;) 

 Yep! That simple! So have you finished your hop? 

Enter below: 

Back to School Book Activities

Tonight on our Facebook LIVE we talked about Back to School Books that up the engagement during the first week of school.  Those first few days we can choose books that are enjoyable, high-energy, and just flat out fun to read because we don't normally have to worry about our scope & sequence yet.  It's a time to grab the attention of your little learners, expose them to books that show READING IS FUN, and get them excited about being in your class.

You're Finally Here by Melanie Watt has been one of my favorites ever since Linda Kamp blogged about it.  She has the cutest unit that your kiddos would just love during that first week of school!  I've been reading it ever since, and it's just my favorite way to start the year!
 After we read the book, we chart where the students were while I was waiting on them.  They think it's so funny to hear me say I was waiting all summer for them to arrive :))  This is also a time where they get to share what they did throughout the summer.
To go along with our read-aloud and chart, I made this directed drawing.  It has simple lines that will be easy for the students to tackle at the beginning of the year!
Right now it's really hard to find a copy of "You're Finally Here"  You can find a couple of YouTube videos with the recording.  Click HERE and HERE.

One of my other favorite stories is The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig.  This story is a perfect read aloud for that first week of school.  The author does a beautiful job telling a story about a student that is lonely/feels left out.  It teaches children that the things we say and do can truly affect another person.  It's a great way to talk about classroom community.
I always like to do a Class Promise or Pledge during the first week of school.  This really emphasizes the fact that we are a family and everyone is important!  It also helps us focus on expectations without constantly saying "You cannot do this" "Don't do that"
 You just can't leave out the teachable moments that this book brings.  The illustrations give us tons of insight to how the character feels.  The craft allows us to discuss different situations that arise at school and how students feel around their classmates.
You can find many more Invisible Boy activities HERE in Rooted in Reading August

To check out the Facebook LIVE video click HERE!

B2S Bash: Amy's Bash Basket

*UPDATE:  Winner has been notified*

Well, friends, the time has come!  It's time to HOP HOP HOP around to 24 blogs for your chance to win some major giveaways!!!  We've teamed up to bring a little fun and excitement to this crazy time of year for teachers.  Our bash baskets are sure to bring some style to your wardrobe, materials to your classroom, and a smile to your face!

Here's how it works...  You'll have a couple of days to hop around blogs and enter the giveaways using a Rafflecopter.  At the bottom of each post there will be a button that will lead you to the next giveaway!  The more blogs you enter on, the better your chances are of winning :)))
Let's start with my Bash Basket!  I've chosen three things that I just can't get enough of....
First up... a cute tee from Oliver and Otis!  I find myself ordering their shirts all the stinkin' time because:
A- they are tshirts, and I'm a sucker for a tshirt
B- they are soft
C- hello preciousness!
Next up... a $50 gift card to the Mint Julep!  If you ask me what I'm wearing (when I'm not in sweatpants) 99% of the time my answer will be The Mint Julep!
My last prize is a Yeti Tumbler!  As teachers we just don't have time to go add ice to our drinks, so the Yeti is the perfect solution!  Literally keeps my water ICE cold all day long!  My whole family takes our Yetis wherever we go :)
Enter using the Rafflecopter below!  You have until the end of Tuesday!
Now, head on over to one of my favorite friends, Hope King!
OHHHHHHH I almost forgot ;)  Be sure to check out INSTAGRAM on Wednesday for the GRAND PRIZE announcement and how to enter!  You definitely won't want to miss out!!!